Media Blog

Punditology

It’s their world – and it’s an unfriendly place for anyone arguing for “more nuance”:

Most pundits are unpaid, but they’re enticed by the potentially rewarding byproducts — book deals, big-dollar speeches, new consulting clients and congratulatory calls from their mothers and friends. Also, pontificating on TV can be an intoxicating hobby. “It’s the most fun you can have sitting down,” says Paul Kedrosky, a venture capitalist from La Jolla, Calif., whose patter on a variety of subjects lands him about 35 TV appearances a year.

Mr. Kedrosky, 40, has learned to take clear positions. Many of his fellow B-listers have “too many hands,” he says. “They’re always saying, ‘On the one hand, on the other hand.’ ” As he sees it, punditry is “like pounding a volleyball back and forth. You just have to remember which side of the net you’re on. If you all stand on the same side, you don’t have a game.” […]

Partisan groups are helping the new generation polish its punditry. At the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Va., conservatives receive media training in “political technology,” based in part on the communication skills of Ronald Reagan. In June, at the YearlyKos convention in Las Vegas — sponsored by the liberal blog DailyKos.com — bloggers and activists attended a “Pundit Project” training session, designed to help them hone their on-air personas. Among other tips, they were told to wear collared, button-down shirts, crucial for microphone-clipping.

Such partisan efforts worry Andrew Cline, a Missouri State University journalism professor who has tracked the art of punditry. Wannabes are sensing that overconfidence is a prerequisite for success, and “that there are only two positions in the world, yours and wrong,” he says. Given the current political and media landscape, he says, he’s skeptical that a “uniter pundit” could emerge.

For more on wannabe pundits, revisit this classic Byron York dispatch from YearlyKos.